How Much to Charge for Private English Lessons

by Julian Kitagawa

How much to charge for private English lessons. Now that is the question. This can be one of the hardest parts of private teaching―but arguably also the most important for you, the teacher!

When I first started teaching private lessons at cafes in Japan, I priced my lessons far too low.

This was a mistake.

It really caused me a lot of trouble, for several reasons, and it took quite a while to put everything right…

Hopefully today’s lesson will help you avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced =)

Why I screwed up …

In my case it was because …

  1. I was young and didn’t feel qualified to charge premium prices.
  2. I thought people would reject me if I charged too much.
  3. I thought a lower price would result in more students, which results in more money overall.

Where I screwed up …

Charging so little for my lessons caused several problems …

  1. I didn’t take into account how much it would cost me for time outside of the lessons.
  2. I didn’t take into account the cost of preparing the lesson (photocopy, printing etc.), of getting to the cafe and of coffee when I was there.
  3. As far as 3) is concerned, this logic works well if you’re running a 100yen shop. But running an English-teaching business and a 100 yen shop is not the same!
  4. Possibly most importantly, I only got cheap students who had little drive.

So yeah, you can see why making your lessons too cheap can make doing it in the first place a total waste of time.

Effort, time and cost must be compensated for. If it’s not, why make the effort?

How much to charge for private English lessons

The first three points are kind of self-explanatory—I just didn’t make enough money at the end of the day for it to be worth the effort. And teaching private lessons does take effort.

But the most important is #4.

That’s the kicker. The one which will break you. The one which will ensure you never succeed.

Cheap lessons = Cheap students

Let’s talk about #4 point in some detail….

Cheap lessons equal cheap teachers. And cheap teachers attract teach students.

Put another way, when you make your lesson cheap you are basically telling the world “My lessons aren’t really that good!

Obviously, the kind of students who REALLY want to learn English and REALLY care about learning aren’t interested in you. They want good teachers. Good lessons. And they’re prepared to pay a premium price for it!

On the other hand, the kind of student who cares less about quality than price do come!

They’re not looking to improve their English. Not really.

They might think they want to learn. But their drive isn’t high enough to do it at a premium price. They’re just looking for a cheap deal.

These students tend to be very demanding. They ask a lot of the teacher and expect results. But they don’t want to pay for it, and they don’t want to work for it themselves.  They want the teacher to do all the work.

They want a bargain. Something for nothing, basically.

However this will NEVER work out. Because, apart from anything else, a lesson (or even two) a week just isn’t enough. Learning takes commitment, drive and dedication. It has to be consistent, and the student has to be motivated.

All the things normally associated with success.

These kinds of cheap, poor-quality students just don’t have these things.

Even English teachers are businessmen (or women)

As an English teacher you are selling a service. It doesn’t matter what context you teach in—you are exchanging your time and energy for money.

People have a lot of motivations for becoming language teachers, and let’s face it, becoming rich probably isn’t number one.

(I’m sure there are much easier ways to get rich!)

Put in order to provide a quality service you need to receive quality compensation.

One doesn’t work without the other—you MUST provide real value to get good returns. In the same way you must expect good returns to provide real value.

And here’s the thing, the important part.

When you provide real value, and the student really improves, they will thank you for it. It doesn’t matter that they already had the motivation and drive to succeed―you’re the one who helped them, and you’re the one who will take the credit.

The student will reward that by telling people about you. By recommending you to their friends. By talking positively about you.

And of course this works the other way. Do a bad job and people will still spread the word. And it wont be nice.

In summary …

Don’t be a cheap teacher. Be an expensive one. Just make sure that you provide your students will value relative to that.

Over to you

What do you think? Have you ever had these kinds of experience? Any advice of your own to share? Any questions?

Leave them in the comments!

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